To save her father, a girl journeys with her friends to find a magical relic in Peaslee’s debut middle-grade fantasy series starter.
In Ferry Village, Maine, sixth-grader Josephine “JoJo” Mallory’s life is pretty ordinary—until the morning that she meets a leprechaun. He informs her that her father is being held in the prison fortress Shadowrock (formerly known as “Camelot”) by the evil sorcerer Pewtris Grimm’s three witch-daughters. They mean to torture him to find the location of a prized object, the Chrimeus, “Merlin’s most powerful magical legacy.” JoJo must travel through an underground portal to Erristan, where Shadowrock is, to locate the Chrimeus and trade it for her dad’s life. Luckily, she has her two best friends to help: Marcella “Marcy” DiPietro is awkward, physically and socially, but is the smartest kid in sixth grade, and Johnny Dowling—called “Trip” to commemorate his scoring a triple hat-trick (nine goals) in one hockey game—is the school’s star athlete. In Erristan, the three learn that Grimm has almost rid the land of Free Knights, the successors to the Knights of the Round Table who’ve guarded the Chrimeus since the fall of Camelot a thousand years ago. The magical object, one of five, is crucial to restoring the Free Knights to fight Grimm. With help from members of the local resistance, the youngsters face a series of challenges, and JoJo learns startling truths. Although the portal-quest format is all too standard in YA fantasy adventure, Peaslee does brings a few unusual changes to the Arthurian legend and shows some invention with his magical creatures, such as talking spiders and “Fast Turtles,” which characters use for transportation. The strongest feature of the book, though, is how Trip and Marcy, two very different people, learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and sympathize with their respective weaknesses. JoJo’s ability to maintain close friendships with both of them suggests her own nascent leadership ability, setting the stage for her to take on greater responsibilities in future volumes of this series.
Many familiar elements, but the characterization is strong in this adventure tale.